Top Ten Tuesday: Literary heartbreaks


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s list is on a Valentine’s theme. 

I’m not a huge fan either of romantic literature or of Valentine’s Day so this week’s TTT theme was a tricky one. I had half an idea that I might ignore the romance altogether and go for something that was both topical and also much closer to my own heart: Shrove Tuesday. I love Shrove Tuesday, it’s my favourite of all the Tuesdays….

But, believe it or not, it’s ridiculously hard to come up with ten books connected in some way with Shrove Tuesday. I gave up on this idea pretty quickly. It wasn’t one of my best.  

My second idea was to do a post on beekeepers, plague victims and epileptics, of course. Saint Valentine is their patron saint too and they seem to get a bit overlooked in favour of all that lovey dovey stuff. What an insult. This was a better idea but it wasn’t much easier.

In the end, after mulling it over for ages, I reluctantly reverted back to a more traditional Valentine’s theme. I read somewhere that 14th February actually marks the day that Saint Valentine was beheaded so in his honour I chose ten literary romances that were also, ahem, cut short. I suppose it’s really just a list of my favourite broken hearts in literature:

1. Maurice Bendrix in The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. I love how tortured Graham Greene’s characters are. This is the story of one man’s obsession with discovering why his lover walked away from the affair they’d been carrying out amongst the bombed out houses of wartime London. It’s brill.

2. Anne Elliott in Persuasion by Jane Austen. I think Anne might be my favourite Austen heroine. She lets herself be bullied into ditching the man she loves and regrets it for years to come.

3. Jed Parry in Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. This list began with Atonement in third place but then I remembered Jed Parry: delusional, obsessive, in agonies over an utterly fictitious relationship with another man…. He’s quite a guy.

4. Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I have absolutely zero patience with Heathcliff and Cathy. I mean, come on guys, you’re just making yourselves miserable. I’m so torn by this book. Do I love it? Do I hate it? Who knows.

5. Miss Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I often wonder what her family and friends thought of Miss Havisham’s response to her fiancés death. Surely she had friends and family; why didn’t they intervene before she decided to live in anguish amongst the decaying remains of her wedding feast?

6. George in A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. I was kind of obsessed with Christopher Isherwood for a while and this was one of my favourites. George is an English professor living in California and attempting to piece together a new life following the sudden death of his partner Jim.

7. Anna in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Poor old Anna. Tolstoy really has it in for her.

8. Othello in Othello by William Shakespeare. I didn’t go for Romeo and Juliet, too obvious of course, and I much prefer Othello’s grim descent into jealousy and spite.  

9. Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. There’s something about Jay Gatsby that I like, even when he’s being a terrible show off. I want Daisy to be worthy of him. 

10. Florentino in Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Florentino soothes his broken heart by having over 600 affairs with beautiful women. It seems like quite a nice way to while away the years. 

That’s all for this week!


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